TiVo Bolt OTA
Last updated date: September 2, 2019
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We looked at the top 1 DVRs and dug through the reviews from 11 of the most popular review sites including BestReviews, CNET, TechHive, Digital Trends, The Verge, Top Ten Reviews, Sound And Vision, Cord Cutter News, Audioholics, Cord Cutting, Kill The Cable Bill and more. Through this analysis, we've determined the best DVR you should buy.
For those who want their shows in HD, the TiVo Bolt OTA is a solid contender. It also allows you to stream shows from Netflix and similar services, with a search function that works across both streaming and live TV content. Perks like voice control and a commercial skip mode are a boon for busy viewers. In our analysis of 66 expert reviews, the TiVo TiVo Bolt OTA placed 1st when we looked at the top 8 products in the category. For the full ranking, see below.
Editor's Note August 21, 2019:
Checkout The Best DVR for a detailed review of all the top dvrs.
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From The Manufacturer
Catch live TV, like comedies, dramas, award shows, sports, local news and more, all broadcast for free, with TiVo BOLT OTA for antenna and an HD antenna (sold separately). It’s the all-in-one live, recorded and streaming TV device that makes the most of your TV experience. Access the popular apps like Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu, YouTube and more.2 Skip entire commercial breaks with a single tap.3 And search across channels, recordings and apps to find what you’re looking for, faster. And because there’s no cable TV subscription required, you could save more than $800 over three years.1 Say goodbye to cable TV. Say hello to a better way to watch.
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An Overview On DVRs
Back in the old days of cable TV — and by “old days,” we mean the mid-2000s — the role of the DVR was simple. The name stood for digital video recorder, and that’s what it did. It recorded video from your cable television to an internal storage device, allowing you to pause, rewind or record live television. When it was first introduced, this was revolutionary. You could skip commercials! Pause for bathroom breaks! Make that must-see show wait until you were good and ready! The convenience was so great that cable and satellite providers started providing DVR service as part of their basic subscription, and most still do.
These days, those features can seem quaint for cord-cutters who rely primarily on streaming services for their entertainment. But the pendulum has begun to swing back, as streaming subscriptions grow pricier and people are starting to realize that OTA (over the air) TV is still free for those with a decent antenna. But how do we make those scheduled network shows fit our busy lifestyle? Re-enter the stand-alone DVR.
And far from sitting idle, TiVo and the other pioneers of DVR technology have been incorporating new technology to make their services relevant even to those with a streaming package. TiVo’s Bolt OTA, for instance, presents itself as an all-in-one media device, allowing you to grab and record shows from your antenna but also giving access to streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. You can search for shows across both live TV and applications, issue voice commands through either the remote or Amazon’s Alexa assistant and even skip commercials.
Other DVRs are somewhat more stripped down, but the main thing to remember is that you won’t be able to do much with a DVR alone. Nearly all of them require a TV antenna to access OTA content, sold separately. And if you want that content to be in HD, you’ll need an HD antenna. For Amazon’s Fire TV Recast, you’ll also need an Amazon Fire player or Echo Show with an active account.
How they connect to your TV also differs. Most run connections to your antenna, then deliver shows to your TV through an HDMI or another cable. The Tablo 4-Tuner DVR is a bit of an outlier, running through your wireless router which then delivers content to your TV.
There may also be a subscription cost to figure in, ranging from a few dollars a month to nothing at all. Considering that some DVRs can even let you record and watch from tablets or phones while you’re away from home, it can be a great option for viewers who don’t want to miss a thing.
DYWM Fun Fact
What do people DVR the most? If 2018 is any indication, dramas get a lot of play. Along with its rankings for live viewing, Nielsen keeps track of network shows that are played back within seven days of airing. In that category, the top five shows are all serious business, including NBC’s “This Is Us,” two hospital dramas (“The Good Doctor” and “New Amsterdam”) and the winner, NBC’s “Manifest.”
The DVR Buying Guide
- The first thing to do when buying a DVR is to get those glasses ready, because you’ll want to read the fine print. You’ll need an antenna to access the live shows for your DVR, and it’s best to buy the antenna first so you know what stations you can reliably pick up at your location. But that might not be all: Some DVRs will also require a subscription to start up. Those are typically the ones that allow you to access streaming services, so it can still be a great option for those that don’t already have it.
- Most DVRs can accommodate more than one TV these days, which is great for big families. You can be watching the game in the living room while the kids record cartoons in the den, for example. Some might even be able to stream your OTA content to tablets or other devices for viewing while you’re on the go. All good perks, but make sure you’ve got enough tuners to handle all that business. In a nutshell, the amount of tuners you’ve got usually determines the amount of different shows you can watch or record simultaneously. A family using a four-tuner DVR would be able to watch two shows on separate TVs while recording two shows for later, for example.
- Then there’s storage. If you like to record a lot of shows, be aware there’s a limit. Many DVRs will come with a certain amount of internal storage; others might require you to buy hard drives or other expansions to the memory. Most will let you know the storage capacity in hours, but a rule of thumb is that one hour of HD programming will usually take up 6 GB.
- What are the bells and whistles on your DVR? Do your research, because some features might be worth the price alone. Others, you might already have or need other devices to fully take advantage of. For instance, the TiVo Bolt OTA’s streaming capabilities: You might already be watching Netflix or Amazon shows through a smart TV or other interface, but perhaps it’s worth it to have all those shows plus OTA TV on a single menu.
- Got an Ultra 4K TV? Make sure that not only your DVR supports that kind of resolution, but your antenna does as well. Essentially, your picture will only look as good as the weakest device you’re using to access it. In the case of the Tablo 4-Tuner, you’ll be watching shows through your internet router, so make sure your bandwidth is up to the task.
- Finally, setup can be a headache when you’re dealing with this many devices. Don’t be afraid to call support for connection help. Pro tip: While it’s best to set up your antenna first, make sure that its ideal location is one that the DVR’s cords can reach.